Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Mission Accomplished!: How Zack Ryder Became a DIY Huge Star

Zack Ryder, searching for this week's Broski of the Week?
Photo Credit: WWE.com
Zack Ryder finally arrived last night.

After months and months of rallying the WWE fans to put pressure on the company to give the man more of a platform to shine, Ryder got his ultimate reward in a video package, a spotlight position in a tag match as Jerry Lawler's partner against the Newish Nexus, badgering from Michael Cole and the pinfall victory with his finisher. Unlike other darlings of the Internet, Ryder did all this to massive applause. Those cheers have been there since the Long Island RAW where Ryder wasn't to be seen anywhere but on Superstars, and finally the attention from the front office has caught up to the fan reaction.

The biggest thing that this proves is that maybe, just maybe, WWE is wising up to the fact that it's not just "their" vision that creates stars. Ryder was unhappy with the amount of time on TV he had and the lack of merchandise that was being made for him, so he made a Youtube show and built a grassroots rapport with fans who already were supporting him from having watched him on ECW. Those fans spread the word, and Ryder himself found his coworkers who already liked him and what he was doing becoming more and more vocal about him needing more time to shine. Suddenly, Ryder had a groundswell of emotional investment that manifested itself through Dolph Ziggler after he did not appear on the main RAW telecast in his hometown. The "boys" and the fans have been two groups of people whose opinions really only seemed to matter when they fell in line with what WWE wanted to present recently. While there seems to be a sea change in that kind of thinking that has manifested itself through CM Punk, the Divas of Doom, Christian and even Mark Henry, Ryder still stands out as the starkest example of how DIY can work in WWE.

Don't make any mistakes either judging his rise, because it was as do-it-yourself as you could get in the corporate machine of WWE nowadays. I think that's what makes his rise the most satisfying out of anyone's right now. He saw an opportunity to innovate how one builds character in WWE, seized it, and now, his hard work is paying off. Because of my own biases, my two favorite moments in WWE this year were both at Money in the Bank, when Daniel Bryan won his briefcase and CM Punk kissed Vince McMahon goodbye, but I think a solid third for me was last night, when Ryder got the pin with the Rough Ryder, got the crowd to explode and then got to stand with Lawler as victorious. It's a testament to how well Ryder has done for himself. He proved that the party line passed down by Steve Austin on Tough Enough and repeated by Warrior in his Randy Savage tribute as what used to be "back in the day" still works, no matter how much evidence there is right now to the contrary. If you make your own way, you will be rewarded.

For WWE to survive, I think that credo needs to be adopted by more than just Long Island Ice Z. Churning out mass-produced, dime-a-dozen bland bodybuilders isn't going to create new stars for fans to latch onto. Having guys show their creativity and get people to support them? Yeah, that's going to work. Granted, not everyone can be Ryder, but you won't know who the Ryders of the world are going to be until you give guys the platform to shine independent of the writing staff. Maybe this might mean that a guy like Johnny Curtis will be able to improv a bit instead of doing those lame visual pun segments. Maybe it means Dolph Ziggler will be able to express himself more than just through deferring to Vickie Guerrero. Maybe it means Colt Cabana gets a second chance with the company to right the wrong of his first run as Scotty Goldman. Who knows at this point.

But what I do know is that last night, Ryder finally was made and finally at least earned his spot with the company for as long as they'll have him. WWE could do something stupid like not feature him ever again, but at this point, why would they? The guy can be a huge star for them, and I think the treatment he got last night was indicative of the fact that they know he can be huge for them.

And that makes his run last night the most satisfying thing to happen on the entire telecast. I think it's safe to say that Zack Ryder has finally made it, and I couldn't be happier.

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